Saturday, June 9, 2012

You tell me "What's in the Room?"

When I create dungeons and other adventure locations for D&D games, I write sparse descriptions of the rooms.  I allow the players to help flesh out the details of what the rooms contain.  This frees me from having to painstakingly detail every little item in the room, and lets the players feel more involved because they're participating in world creation. Note that this option will allow players to locate mundane items only that might realistically be expected to be in that environment.  A player won't be able to suddenly discover a Vorpal Sword in a toilet.

World Building Example

I might describe a store room with barrels, crates, shelves of nails, tools, and other building materials.  At this point, one of the players might ask "Is there any rope here?"  At this point, I'll assign a DC based on likelihood of such an item being in this room.  There's a good chance that this storage room would contain rope, so I'd set the DC at 10.  Then, the player would roll a WIS check to see if the item in question is present.

No "Me Toos"

If it's one thing that I dislike about the ability check mechanic, it's when one player fails a roll, then all the other players chime in and say "I'll make that check too".  For purposes of world building, only the player who asked about a certain item is allowed to make the check.

Diminishing Returns

It's assumed that the longer the players look for things in a room, the more difficult time they'll have finding them, because you'd think they'd be able to spot most mundane items right off the bat.  To represent this, subsequent world building checks in the same room by the same player are made at a Disadvantage.

Consequences of Failure

If one of the WIS checks results in a Hazard (the player rolls 10 or more below the DC) then something bad has happened.  Maybe they made too much noise and alerted a guard patrol.  Maybe they disturbed that patch of Yellow Mold.  This should keep the players from abusing this option.  The more "out there" items they look for in a room, the greater the chance of a Hazard.

Tap into the Players' Creativity

Allowing the players to help build the details of the world not only takes a burden off the DM, but also hopefully makes them feel more invested.  Who knows what kind of twists the adventure can take with the combined imaginations of all participants involved?  I'll find out after my first D&D Next playtest, which is scheduled for tomorrow!

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